St. Augustine Inlet Undergoes Emergency Dredging | News
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The Conquistador is a sightseeing speed boat in St. Augustine whose captain, Jay Hodge, like many others has trouble with the narrowing St. Augustine inlet.
"You can see these waves," Hodge pointed to waves in the inlet. "Below these waves there's only 2 feet of water."
The shallow water forces boats to run closer to each other or hit bottom. In 24 months, according to the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District, eight boats have run aground in the St. Augustine inlet.
So city and district officials got an emergency dredging permit and dredging started today. The Army Corps of Engineers is paying for it.
"Captains are avoiding the St. Augustine inlet and St. Augustine and St. Johns County are facing economic hardship as a result. We want visitors here in St. Augustine," said Herb Rippe, a spokesperson with the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District.
The St. Augustine inlet has developed a bad reputation, he said. Officials and those in the tourism business said the inlet is too important to lose traffic.
Hodge agreed. "I couldn't even put a dollar value on how important it would be to open this inlet up."
In two days, 4,000-5,000-cubic yards of sand will be dredged. However, officials said more sand needs to be dredged.
Authority officials aim to dredge six to seven times this much sand from the inlet in two more months. County tax money will pay the $250,000. For now, this dredging is a quick fix.
"It'll open up this fairway probably an additional 200 yards or more of width."
That makes way for what Hodge said will be a safer ride for him and his passengers.
Some habitat conservationists are concerned the lights from this dredging ship will disorient sea turtles during this sea turtle nesting season.
Homeowners in South Ponte Vedra Beach are not opposed to the dredging of the inlet, but they do not want more dredging farther off the coast. They believe it increases the erosion of their back yards.